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COVID Conversations, Ep. 2: Origins of SARS-CoV-2

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From: Debunk the Funk with Dr. Wilson
Duration: 1.4347222222222222:00:00

I'm Dan, a Ph.D. molecular biologist who is passionate about science communication, but I used to be a conspiracy theorist. One of the major goals I had in starting this channel was to have civil conversations with people who hold conspiratorial or unscientific views. So, this series is one I hope to have regularly.

This episode is a conversation with someone who thinks SARS-CoV-2 leaked from a lab.

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Habt ihr zufällig Informationen zu dem Geld, das angeblich ...

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Habt ihr zufällig Informationen zu dem Geld, das angeblich Tether an den Dollar bindet?

Dann könnt ihr hier 1 Million Dollar abholen. (Kontext)

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Health professionals dissatisfied with B.C.'s COVID-19 briefings to start hosting their own

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A new organization — Protect Our Province B.C. — is going to start hosting its own regular COVID-19 briefings because of what its members say is a "worrisome lack of science-informed pandemic response" in British Columbia.

The group of self-described independent health professionals, scientists and policy analysts will stream their first live briefing on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 12 p.m. PT. The first briefing will bring together a panel to review the science on aerosol (airborne) transmission and the implications for health care, school, and workplace settings. 

Family and palliative physician Amy Tan will facilitate the panel. She says B.C. health officials are not doing a transparent or thorough enough job relaying to the general public how big a role aerosol transmission plays in spreading COVID-19.

"It actually spreads like second-hand smoke," said Tan, speaking Monday on CBC's On The Coast.

She said government health officials have been reluctant to acknowledge that the virus can be carried in droplets much further than the "magical two metre distance" so often suggested. If the infected person is carrying enough viral load, Tan says, they can make even a fully-vaccinated person sick.

"We really are about trying to make the science accessible and be able to help educate people in B.C. so they can actually make their own risk assessment and make decisions to help keep themselves and their loved ones, as safe as possible," said Tan.

In a statement, the organization says the key feature of the virus is that it is predominantly spread via aerosol transmission and that to better protect British Columbians several measures need to be taken, including effective ventilation, the wide-spread use of well-fitting, high-quality masks, easy access to rapid testing, as well as effective contact tracing and exposure notifications.

"We are now 20 months into the pandemic, and our government continues to downplay and ignore important scientific evidence, including consensus that COVID-19 is primarily spread through the air," said group co-founder and family physician Karina Zeidler in a news release.

"Refusal to accept the science and educate the public on such basic matters, means that we are never going to be able to put an end to the devastating effects COVID-19 continues to have on the health and well-being of people in our society," Zeidler added.

Jason Woywada, executive director for the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, said he had mixed feelings about the group's creation.

"These groups are created because there's a problem. The problem that is here is a lack of transparency, that the government isn't being transparent in what they are doing," Woywada said. 

The problem, he says, is that groups like these only further contribute to the erosion of trust at a time when there needs to be shared consensus on the basic facts so that the public can make informed decisions. 

"When I look at this group coming forward, I'm left to assume they are legitimate doctors that are making legitimate claims ... The problem is I can't differentiate them, as a member of the public, from other legitimate doctors that are making legitimate claims. That's why we turn to government institutions to make these types of releases."

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix was asked to comment on the new group during a provincial COVID-19 update Monday.

"There's a robust debate, as there would be on an issue with this much importance, and we're always happy to hear from everybody," said Dix.

Protect Our Province B.C.'s first briefing will be one hour long and speakers will include Zeidler, as well as microbiologist and infectious disease physician Victor Leung and professional engineer Michelle Naef.

The livestream will be available on the group's YouTube, Facebook and Twitter platforms.

Subsequent briefings will include both analysis on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the province and  presentations on a variety of pandemic-related topics. Dates will be announced on the above mentioned platforms.

On The Coast11:54Protect Our Province B.C.

A group of healthcare professionals and policy experts have launched “Protect Our Province B.C.” as a response to what they say is a lack of science-informed public health measures from the B.C. government. We speak with briefing facilitator Dr. Amy Tan. 11:54
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Hockey games, concerts, movie theatres back to 100% capacity for fully vaccinated people in B.C.

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Restrictions placed on indoor and outdoor gatherings are being lifted, as the two-dose vaccine requirement for people attending them kicks in.

The revision to the provincial health order is effective Monday, Oct. 25 and comes as two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are required for anyone over 12 to access them.

The provincial health order had previously restricted capacity limits to 50 per cent for indoor, organized gatherings but as of Monday these events will be allowed to operate at 100 per cent capacity in places where the B.C. vaccine card is in effect, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday during a live news conference.

However, regional health orders and restrictions currently in effect in Northern Health, Interior Health and the eastern Fraser Valley will remain in place.

These changes apply to:

  • Indoor sporting events.
  • Indoor concerts, theatre, movie theatres, dance and symphony events.
  • Indoor organized events such as weddings, funeral receptions outside of a funeral home and organized parties.

The order to remain seated at a table in restaurants and pubs will also be lifted Monday, though indoor mask requirements will remain in effect for all indoor gatherings and for people moving around within restaurants and pubs. 

Henry said by ensuring only fully vaccinated people are allowed into more populated venues, the risk of transmission will be reduced. 

During the news conference, Henry said officials are looking into what other restrictions can be lifted as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.

On Monday, the province confirmed 1,846 new cases and 26 new deaths over the previous three days. A statement said there were 4,917 active cases of the disease as of Monday, with 360 people hospitalized and 151 in intensive care.

Dix said 130 of the people who were in intensive care — 86 per cent of the total — were unvaccinated.

The province said 89 per cent of eligible people 12 and older have received their first dose of a vaccine and more than 83 per cent have received their second dose.

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Pluralistic: 19 Oct 2021

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Today's links

A $1 trillion coin; it is especially thick and is stamped with an image of the Statue of Liberty and the legend '$1T.'

The true, Terry Pratchett-esque origins of the trillion-dollar coin (permalink)

The debt ceiling debate is genuinely absurd: Congress authorized the spending of new dollars, so the Treasury has to create them. For Congress to turn around and force the Treasury not to create the dollars it ordered the Treasury to create is an obvious political gimmick.

Hence the trillion dollar coin – a proposal to use a 2000 amendment to 31USC§5112k ("Denominations, specifications, and design of coins") that permits the Treasury Secretary to "mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coin [at] the Secretary’s discretion."

The big idea behind "mint the coin" is that this allows the Treasury Secretary to bypass Congress's terrifying, high-stakes debt ceiling kabuki and just strike a coin that says "$1T" and helicopter it over to the Federal Reserve, where it will be deposited in Congress's account.

Then, once Congress does the inevitable and authorizes the Treasury to make money the usual way (by typing zeroes into a spreadsheet), the coin can be melted down, or put up for display at the Smithsonian, or whatever. It's not merely a gimmick – it's an anti-gimmick gimmick.

The proposal originated with Rohan Grey, a law professor and MMT proponent, during the first of these debt ceiling showdowns. Democrats caved to Republicans to end the crisis, so the GOP did it again…and again.

It turns out that even the Democratic Congressional Congress will eventually figure out that it's being played by the GOP, and so we're talking about the trillion dollar coin again.

The coin's opponents argue the proposal is both silly and illegal, a perversion of the statutory intent of 31USC§5112k. It may be "silly" – but it's far less silly than playing debt ceiling Russian roulette every couple years whenever Mitch McConnell's donors get a wild hair.

Meanwhile the question of the coin's legality has a far more interesting and even wild history that goes back to that 2000 amendment and the US Mint Director who wrote it – Philip Diehl, a Clinton appointee.

Diehl and Grey went deep into that history on the latest episode of the Monthly Review podcast, which is available in both audio and transcript form:

It starts with Diehl's elevation to the head of the Mint: he wasn't a lifer who got promoted, he was a Hill guy who'd gone from being a Congressman's legislative director to Majority Staff Director of the Senate Finance Committee to the Mint.

When he got to the Mint, it was a mess. It had just failed an audit, and ti was being treated as an off-the-books political influence machine by Congress, with Members ordering it to produce "commemorative coins" that raised funds for their pet causes.

The Mint had flooded the world with these junky trinkets and burned its credibility with its core audience – the "white, male, over fifty, conservative, Republican" collectors who bought coins and bullion.

Diehl had the task of cleaning up the mint, and he used his years as a Hill player to figure out how to get Congress to surrender its authority over the Mint to its director, who would be charged with developing collectibles and circulating coinage in response to demand.

This is actually a neat parallel to the debt ceiling story itself – originally, Congress had to approve every new bond issue, which grew so unwieldy and politicized that they turned the job over to the Treasury, merely setting a ceiling on how much the Treasury could issue.

The coin may sound weird, but it's just a version of how the Mint already operates. It strikes, say, a quarter that costs it 8¢ to make. It sends those quarters to the Treasury, which pays it 25¢ each for them, creating a profit of 17¢/coin (this is called "seigniorage").

At the end of the year, it sends the profit from those coins (which came from the Treasury in the first place!) to the Treasury as its contribution to the general operating fund. The same principle that underpins all the Mint's minting is behind the trillion dollar coin.

The people who argue that the coin goes against 31USC§5112k are wrong, says Diehl – and he should know, because he wrote 31USC§5112k. As Diehl says in the interview, "it’s a feature, not a bug."

The other objection to the coin is that it is inflationary, because it increases the monetary supply, but that's just factually wrong. Congress increased the monetary supply by authorizing the spending the coin allows. The coin is just a way of breaking the deadlock.

Unlike other measures, like quantitative easing, the coin puts no new money into circulation – it goes from the Mint to a Reserve vault to the Smithsonian. No one ever spends the coin.

The inflation question is important and real, but (as the panic over the coin demonstrates) badly misunderstood. As Stephanie Kelton reminds us, the Fed has admitted it "has no reliable theory of inflation."

But Kelton does! "What matters is the economy’s capacity to safely absorb those dollars as they begin to flow into people’s pockets…The real challenge is ‘How will you resource it?’" That is, can the US produce the things Congress wants to buy?

In many cases, it's inarguable that the US has resources for Congress to buy – every unemployed person's labor is not being procured by the private sector and is thus for sale to Congress to do the work in the Build Back Better agenda.

Build Back Better's policies are wildly popular, including among Republicans. The US wants to allocate resources to it, but here in the Manchin Sinematic Universe (the stupidest of all timelines), two sociopaths have sold their votes to block it.

Minting the coin could bypass these two ghouls – and, as Diehl and Grey discuss, just the THREAT of the coin would kill debt ceiling shenanigans: "to say, 'you know, the coin is an option' releases the negotiating pressure, to get the outcome they really wanted."

The story of Diehl's history with the Mint and the way that Congress had used it as a literal piggybank to raid to curry favor with donors is strongly reminiscent of Making Money, Terry Pratchett's 2007 novel in the brilliant Discworld series.

In that novel, outsider (actually, reformed con artist, but that's not the part that's parallel to Diehl's story!) Moist von Lipwig is made Governor of the Royal Mint and discovers that a powerful family has been raiding the bank's cash reserves to finance their lifestyle.

That family – the Lavishes (!) – are as corrupt and nasty and infighting a lot as Congress itself, and Moist's realization that artificial constraint on the money supply was hamstringing the city-state of Ankh-Morpork propels the story's resolution.

Pratchett's 41 Discworld novels were a gift to the world; this isn't the only one of his novels with strong parallels to contemporary mishegas, and his humor, empathy and kindness make for a uniquely humane frame for thinking about today's issues.

The coin may be a silly solution, but – as is so often the case with Pratchettesque scenarios – it's a silly solution to a problem that's flat-out ridiculous.

(Image: Donkey Hotey, CC BY)

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Clay Shirky on what web services are(n't)

#20yrsago Patrick Nielsen Hayden interviews John M Ford

#15yrsago Publishing isn’t bestseller-driven

#15yrsago Vista licence: Microsoft’s abusive relationship with you

#10yrsago Belarusian central bank auctions off its sugar bowls

#5yrsago Public universities and even the US Navy have sold hundreds of patents to America’s most notorious troll

#5yrsago Harry Shearer sues studio over Spinal Tap, says he’s received $98 in royalties over 30 years

#5yrsago Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy

#1yrago Kids reason, adults rationalize

Colophon (permalink)

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Good


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

You can also do this if someone says the methods used for a linguistics paper were invalid.

Today's News:
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